Getting an eSATA PCIe card, and why to wait upon getting a FW800 PCIe card:

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by TheStrudel, Apr 21, 2008.

  1. TheStrudel macrumors 65816

    TheStrudel

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2008
    #1
    So after poking around a fair bit, reading lots of reviews, and learning as much as I could, I'd concluded a few things: I wanted an eSATA card as well as a USB 2/FW800 card as I hate hubs and I wanted lots of extra ports (I edit a fair amount of video). But it turned out that FW800 PCIe cards were all far slower than apple's onboard ports (and this was in the first gen mac pros, which have slower FW buses than the early 2008 mac pros). After shopping around, I noticed that NitroAV was selling pretty much the best value-for-money cards. I chatted with a sales rep online (very handy, by the way), and he cleared up. Their eSATA card is fully leopard compatible, SMART support, etc., no boot support (Most of the cards use the silicon graphics firmware, which does not have it), though it's not impossible to add later. With two external ports and 1 internal, it seems to be as good as Firmtek's equivalent card, but a bit cheaper:

    http://www.nitroav.com/product/472/

    He then explained what the deal was with the slower FW800 cards. Apparently, until recently, FW800 PCIe and Expresscard adapters actually used a PCI->PCIe/Expresscard bridge, which severely throttled the speeds you could get, explaining why the speeds tested on Axaeon's equivalent card were so slow on Barefeats. He then went on to tell me that they would be deploying their PCIe native, nonbridged FW800 card in about a month or so. So it looks like I'll be buying their eSATA card, then checking back in later on to get the FW800 card.

    I'll be sure to let you all know what I think of the eSATA card once it's arrived and working.
     
  2. Mac-HD macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2008
    #2
    I talked to a salesman a couple hours back.

    The card seems to be good. You can do a Soft raid (0 or 1) with it. The way I see it, for $60, I'll get 2 eSata ports and a Sata port. Now I can do 2 Raid 0's with two drives in each configuration, and keep the OS seperate. The eSata can be used for regular backups (Raid 0 requires good backup planning).

    The Sata port on this card can't be used to boot as per this salesman.

    Thanks for bringing this up. Please keep me posted.
     
  3. TheStrudel thread starter macrumors 65816

    TheStrudel

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2008
    #3
    Benchmarks

    So I've finished a first round of benchmarking. It's not a perfect set, for a few reasons: I don't have a good selection of drives for comparison, and no single quad interface drive, I have only one eSATA drive as of now (not a fast one, as you'll see), and I only ran one round on Xbench (can use SpeedTools Utilities if somebody wants me to). Here's that round of benchmarks:
     

    Attached Files:

  4. TheStrudel thread starter macrumors 65816

    TheStrudel

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2008
    #4
    And here are the benchmarks from another drive I used for comparison (it didn't have eSATA, so I was only able to test it with Firewire). I didn't bother with USB, since that wouldn't have showed anything more.
     

    Attached Files:

  5. TheStrudel thread starter macrumors 65816

    TheStrudel

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2008
    #5
    Observations

    Here are my observations (and do correct me if I'm misinterpreting anything here).

    -The speed of the drive itself matters, and the quality of the connection interface matters a lot.
    -The G-force drive on firewire outperformed the WD drive on eSATA, sometimes even on firewire 400.
    -As predicted, eSATA was the fastest option, but not necessarily by all that much. Gains over firewire appear to be modest.

    This could be because it's a faster drive, but the quality of the firewire interface is certainly superior on the G-force drive. eSATA did yield the best speeds for the WD drive, but the difference between FW400 and USB 2 was much more dramatic, as expected. When I get a two-drive eSATA enclosure, I'll post my results, but until then this is all I've got. The card seems to pretty much work exactly as advertised, but I don't expect to get a drive that's actually capable of saturating the card's bandwidth - I don't know if even a four drive eSATA RAID enclosure on RAID 0 could saturate the relevant card. eSATA is, for single drives, most useful for moving the drive storage off of the firewire interface, which is nice if one is using it to capture video as well. Where it really shines is in a multi-drive RAID enclosure. The flexibility the option adds is nice, and the card is good. Will give more information if anybody's interested.
     
  6. JesterJJZ macrumors 68020

    JesterJJZ

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2004
    #6
    What's the point of another internal sata port on a mac pro? It already has two spare ports inside.
     
  7. TheStrudel thread starter macrumors 65816

    TheStrudel

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2008
    #7
    If you felt like somehow cramming another drive in on top of using the two ODD ports, I suppose. I got this one for the two eSATA ports, though considering the tremendous pain it was to route the SATA cable to the optical bay like I did to install a drive, I guess it's a lazier way to get another port for such a use. Or, actually, a good use for that extra port that recently arrived would be putting a Velociraptor in, though that doesn't solve the problem of powering it. I don't know if you could mount it in the drive bay and slide it all the way in, come to think of it, but I guess someone else may try it and let us know.
     

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